The Milwaukee Brewers franchise is celebrating the 40th anniversary of their move from Seattle to Milwaukee this season.
A second playoff appearance in three years would be a nice way to commemorate the occasion, but the Brewers are off to a slow start in 2010.
This slideshow is going to point out the five main things that the Brewers are going to either have to overcome or deal with, in order to have a successful 41st year as a team.
I welcome your comments and opinions whether they support my positions or not.
Seats filled. Crowd vocal. Games sold out.
These things are quickly becoming a thing of the past in 2010. To be fair, it's hard to blame the fans for it. The team has played horribly at home over the last year plus.
One might not call 40-42 horrible, but it is quite terrible in baseball to play under .500 at home if you want to be considered a good team.
The biggest reflection of the lack of interest in this team at this point is that they couldn't even sell out a game against the Chicago Cubs. That's not a good omen, boys and girls.
Why, though, do I classify this as one of the biggest issues facing this team? The answer to that question is two-fold.
First, fewer fans equates to lesser revenue. When the team is already struggling with budgetary limits, generating less dollars isn't going to help any matters.
Second, when players see a plethora of open seats it affects them, even if only on a subconscious level. The atmosphere is affected negatively and the special feeling that Miller Park has been able to conjure up over the last couple of seasons as the "place to be" is wavering.
This team needs its fans to support it both in spirit, flesh, and pocketbook.
Then again, the fans' money or lack thereof isn't the only thing hurting the club's bottom line...
The Brewers have a limited budget—we all know that this is true—so when we're paying players exorbitant amounts of money to either be terrible, be hurt, or play for somebody else, it handcuffs the franchise like you wouldn't believe.
The aforementioned Jeff Suppan is wasting time out in the bullpen, wasting innings on the mound, and wasting dollars that could have been spent on free agent pitchers to bolster the pitching staff.
Likewise, David Riske is wasting that same money while wasting time in the minor leagues and on the disabled list. He signed a long free agent deal with Milwaukee after putting together some good seasons in Kansas City. It is probably Riske's contract more than any other that has led to GM Doug Melvin's propensity toward one-year contracts to bullpen pitchers.
Bill Hall is spending his time in the major leagues, at least, but it isn't even in the National League. Hall is being paid quite a bit of money to play terrible baseball for the Boston Red Sox. Again, like with how I'm glad Suppan isn't in the rotation, I'm happy Hall is no longer with Milwaukee. It's the money that he's taking with him out of town that irks me.
The Brewers landed their target this last offseason in starting pitcher Randy Wolf, but he was their main target after the team decided it wouldn't be able to afford the services of the consensus best pitcher available, John Lackey.
Of course, Lackey might not have played here anyway, but wouldn't it have been nice to have the funds available to make him a comparable offer to the one he ended up signing with Boston?
All of the government issued portraits of presidents (and Ben Franklin) that are stuffing the pockets of useless dead weight have hamstrung this club and limited its ability to function properly.
Length as in how long the starting pitchers last into the game.
Obviously, the fewer innings that your rotation throws, the more innings that your bullpen has to cover. Brewers starting pitchers have gotten to the eighth inning this year only once.
Individually, the starters have scattered some strong performances though the series in Pittsburgh notwithstanding, the outstanding performances just aren't coming often enough.
Yovani Gallardo has been the most consistent performer, but lost in those outings have been wins.
With as shaky as the bullpen has been so far this year, the rotation needs to step it up a notch (or three) by working deeper into games more often.
After all, the fewer innings that the bullpen pitches, the fewer chances they have to mess things up.
High pitch counts and ineffectiveness (and sometimes a combination platter) have resulted in an awful lot of innings for the bullpen already this year. That is an issue that absolutely must be remedied.
This issue is one that has loomed large so far in the regular season.
Trevor Hoffman has four blown saves already this month (as of press time, because there are still two games yet to be decided before April is over) which matches his total from all six months of last season. Not in Hoffman's favor for that statistical analysis is that Hoffman missed almost the entire month of April in 2009 while rehabilitating an oblique strain.
The all-time Saves leader in Major League Baseball history with 594, Hoffman has been betrayed so far this season by what got him to that point: his control.
Hoffman hasn't had elite velocity for a long time, but he has made his living on locating his fastball and getting swings and misses with his change-up. He hasn't even thrown many change-ups this year and the ones that he has thrown recently are getting bashed.
Then again, his 86 mile per hour fastball has been getting crushed as well because Hoffman simply isn't executing. Pitch selection isn't nearly the problem that locating those pitches has become.
Having said all that, Hoffman isn't the only problem in the bullpen although an ineffective closer is the most glaring. Here is a quick rundown of the other issues in the pen.
- Jeff Suppan is in it. Granted, I'd rather he be there than in the rotation, but the fact that he is anywhere on the 25-man roster is a detriment to this team.
- Needing to have a place to store Suppan lead to issue No. Two, not having a LOOGy in the bullpen. It cost us the services of Scott Schoeneweis first and later cost Mitch Stetter his spot on the big league club. We've gotten burned a couple of times already by not having Stetter to call in from the bullpen for a big out.
- Set-up man LaTroy Hawkins (though he's pitched better lately) went through a rough patch that cost the team chances at a handful of victories. Nobody is going to be perfect, but your eighth inning guy needs to be good more often than he's not.
Bottom line, when the team has lost leads in six games in the eighth inning or later, it's the bullpen that's not getting the job done.
When your inconsistent offense and sometimes ineffective starting pitching get you a lead late in the game...well, those situations simply must be converted into wins.
For all the Brewers troubles, if those six games were wins instead of losses, the review of April wouldn't be so bad and the outlook for the rest of the season wouldn't appear so bleak.
I put a period in the title of this slide to emphasize that the single biggest issue facing this team in 2010 is: Consistency, period.
20-0 games are nice. I'd take them every night of the week if I could, sure. The reality, though, is that you only have to score one more run than the other team to win.
What it all boils down to is all parts of this team playing up to, or at worst slightly below, their ability.
Take a look at the dichotomy that is this team this season.
- Get shut out by Livan Hernandez.
- Win a series from a 90+ win team that won the National League Wild Card last year.
- Hoffman saves two in a row against Colorado to kick off the year.
- Hawkins gives up three runs in back-to-back hold opportunities.
- Doug Davis twirls a quality start good enough to win against the Cubs but loses.
- Doug Davis gets knocked around against the Rockies but the team wins.
- Brewers sweep Pirates in Pittsburgh with a combined score of 36-1.
- Brewers win 17-3 in Game 1 of a three-game series at Miller Park against the Pirates but lose the series.
I could go on with that list for a long time. There are plenty of examples. The point is that this team has enough talent on it to blow teams out 20-0 but enough inconsistency among its regulars to get stomped 2-12, 0-8, 0-9, etc.
The team has played well enough to win more than the nine times that it has. When a team has all facets of the game working together, that's when the big runs happen. You saw it a couple of years ago when the Brewers started the year 24-10. When it happens, it's a beautiful thing.
But when things don't go well and it befuddles the players, the coaches, the manager, heck even the racing sausages don't know what to expect from one game to the next.
That's all frustrating and confusing and downright ugly.
This team has had more than it's fair share of ugly in 2010.
The Brewers sure could use a few more pretty days...and soon.